Mutual support is vital to healthy partnerships, but support need not always be about making money or "being productive." Acts of service count too!
Service is at the forefront for value within my relationship with my submissive dearheart. It's something we explicitly acknowledge, negotiate, and check in about. We don't let service fall into the murky depths of assumptions.
However, ever since my dearheart resigned from his job he has struggled with non-working guilt. Without a job to bring in his own income he feels like a burden, despite carrying his share of household chores.
Problematic Definitions for "Productivity"
U.S. culture tends toward hustling and endless work. It is an insistent whisper in our ears: "If you're not keeping busy, then you're worthless." Productivity becomes a goal unto itself, and for people like my dearheart the easiest measure of productivity is in work and wages.
Luckily for my dearheart, I do not mistake money for value. My measure of value in a relationship includes service, fulfilment, creativity, comfort, and more. I ensure that he's clearly appreciated for being who he is, not for his working identity. His worth is more than just cash he brings in, or services he provides. His true productivity is found in bettering himself and furthering our goals, not in doing tangential tasks like working.
Yet this transition from working to home life is still difficult to reconcile, and not just for my dearheart. Others have taken long journeys to understanding, for example:
For years, I thought I brought value to my relationship by funneling money into our bank accounts. When I chose to stay-at-home, I wasn’t sure what I was bringing to the table.
I wrapped so much of my identity into my former career that I couldn’t see my value after I stopped working. It’s been a long journey to see past that narrow image of myself.
– One Frugal Girl, "How Do You Define Success?"
Despite my reassurances and gentle reminders to my dearheart, he still struggles with non-working guilt. He doesn't believe in the value of living leisurely and making someone else's life comfier. In large part I attribute this to the hustle culture in the U.S.
Things are even worse with the global pandemic and lockdown. Hustle culture says that we should be taking advantage of this crisis to "better ourselves" or improve our hustle or to capitalise on it. Yet for most of us we're struggling with flagging mental health, and are caught in crush of tight finances so that it's nigh-impossible to bootstrap something new. Doing something to take advantage of this crisis is yet another exercise in privilege.
Yet "you always need to be doing something" is one message hustle culture promotes. Whether meaningful work or make-work, you have to stay busy. Resting and leisure becomes a guilty pleasure under this paradigm. A recent article I read has a good quote for that:
Our contemporary practices of glorifying productivity—our do-what-you-love ethos, the flood of self-help writing aimed at creating the appearance and the performance of never-ending work—shame idleness, attach a sort of divine purity to hustle, and raise questions about what leisure even is and who deserves it.
– "In Defense of Doing Nothing"
The thing about hustling is, you need occasional downtime. You cannot literally be on all the time. That path leads to burnout.
This parallels 24/7 D/s dynamics: you cannot be engaged all the time, dominant all the time, or submissive all the time. You need downtime to rest and recuperate and restore some of that energy.
You'll naturally find that sub drop and top drop force you to take breaks. So too will nervous breakdowns and depression disrupt your obsessive hustling – unless you learn to take breaks.
Taking breaks can be resting on the weekend, taking weeks off, or building in breaks into your daily routine. It can also be something large-picture, like taking sabbaticals, or months off from the grind of daily work.
Recovering From Productivity Culture
Ultimately my dearheart leaving his job will be a net gain for our relationship. In the seasons of our lives, this is the winter we weather with rest, to renew ourselves for spring.
For one thing, my dearheart will be able to recuperate from the daily grind of a day job. He can regain his energy and passion for things other than "working for the man." He's slowly learning to accept his abundance of free time. For the first few months he constantly questioned me with "Is it really all right for me to not be working?"
For another thing, he can shift that renewed energy into relationship strengthening activities. Being an active house-spouse is one way he shows his love to me – with acts of service.
Whether it's simple stuff like refilling my water or routine tasks such as cooking dinner every night, he is serving as the heart of our relationship. He is the core by which I am propelled to further productivity – without him I am less efficient and effective.
It's yet another reason why I refer to him as my dearheart – he is my heart outside my body, core of my family, and a crucial support. His service is a wondrous gift I cherish dearly.
The Greatest Act of Service
Supporting my dearheart through his time off is a great gift I'm giving him. Not just for the recuperation, but also for the strategic opportunities it affords us.
No longer is my dearheart chained by golden handcuffs to his day job. He could use this opportunity to invest in many things that would have been impossible during a regular working week. An obvious example is going to college. Another is to do the time-intensive work of starting up a new side gig.
Month long breaks like this are the perfect time to metaphorically collect your breath, recenter yourself, and begin anew down a different path. I'm happy to dress this up to my dearheart as a gift, but like the controlling Domme I am there are hooks attached that I wish to reel in.
My dearheart gave himself to me and submitted to my will. His greatest service should be furthering my ambitions with me. As my dearheart told me "Use me in whatever way you see fit."
If it's not clear, I have ambitions up to the skies. My grand designs begin with financial independence, and grow from there. That ambitious side of me sees my dearheart's time off as an opportunity to take advantage of his services. There's the slew of home improvement projects that need to be taken care of, administrative tasks, and training my dearheart needs to pick up. One day he will be my estate manager, my steward, or my chief of staff.
Thus the greatest act of service my dearheart can give me is to devote his life to mine. To become more capable, to lessen my burdens, and to oversee the minutiae of my projects.
Every day I know that I am loved not just for the simple routine services we have built around each other, but for the fact that he trusts my commands even still. He wishes to please me, and what pleases me most is to have him grow.